A coalition of U.S.-based Muslim groups claiming that anti-Muslim backlash is on the rise in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino hopes to register one million people to vote before the 2016 election as part of a “civic empowerment initiative.”
Oussama Jammal, the secretary general of the U.S. Council on Muslim Organizations, also announced in a press conference held Monday at the National Press Club that the group will “seek to increase emergency preparedness for Islamic institutions and individuals to address the rising number of incidents of hate crimes that are unfortunately happening nationwide.”
While the press conference participants — who hailed from such groups as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) — focused little attention on the recent terrorist attacks, they focused on some of the political rhetoric that has followed.
To address what they perceive as public and political backlash, the groups plan the massive Muslim voter outreach as well as a “major educational outreach” which will include a “One America” program aimed at helping non-Muslims understand Islam.
One speaker, ISNA vice president Atlaf Husain, urged local, state and federal politicians who “aspire to political victory” to engage Muslims.
He also cautioned: “If you as a political candidate choose to spew hatred, bigotry and to vilify Muslim-Americans, you do so at your own political risk. We will use every democratic — small ‘d’ — democratic means political strategies to ensure that your candidacy never succeeds.”
Press conference participants were vague on how the massive Muslim voter registration effort will unfold.
Responding to a reporter’s question on the matter, Jammal said that the coalition will mobilize the Muslim community through early voting efforts and by busing and shuttling voters to polling stations.
Another speaker, American Muslim Alliance executive director Mahdi Bray asserted the coalition plans to “use the ballot to fight bigotry.”
“Let it be clear to all political candidates, be it Donald Trump, or whoever else, that if you engage in Islamophobia, if you engage in demagoguery and bigotry, you will pay a political price because we’re going to register our people and we’re going to take our souls to the polls and make sure you’re out of there.”
Bray’s comments prompted CAIR executive director Nihad Awad to caution that the coalition is made up of non-profit groups and that they are not endorsing any particular candidate.
It’s no surprise that Awad would shy away from such rhetoric. Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson called on the IRS to investigate CAIR after Awad called on the retired neurosurgeon to drop out of the presidential race in September after he said that he would not support a Muslim for president. (RELATED: Muslim Civil Rights Group May Have Violated Election Law By Criticizing Ben Carson)
In his own remarks, Awad downplayed the threat posed by ISIS, while claiming that anti-Muslim hate crimes have increased after the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. Many of the speakers on Monday cited several firebombings of mosques following the San Bernardino attack earlier this month.
“We believe that the ISIS attacks are getting disproportionate media and political attention,” Awad said. In an attempt to make his point, Awad said that while there have only been three ISIS-inspired or ISIS-related attacks in the U.S. this year, there have been 355 mass shootings.
That statistic, which has been widely cited by many news outlets, is likely vastly overstated. The liberal outlet Mother Jones has disputed that statistic, finding in its own analysis that there have been only four mass shootings in the U.S. this year.
Both CAIR and ISNA were named as unindicted co-conspirators in the 2007 Holy Land Foundation case. The Holy Land Foundation was found to have provided support to the terrorist group Hamas. Both groups, as well as ICNA, have ties to various terrorist sympathizers. Rafia Farook, the mother of San Bernardino terrorist Syed Farook, was a member of ICNA. That organization, which is based in New York, is also tied to the Pakistani radical group, Jamaat-e-Islami. (RELATED: Shooter’s Mother Active In Pro-Caliphate Islamic Group)